, Newburyport, MA


June 4, 2010

Health and Well-Being: Bottling up emotions carries health risks

Today's article focuses on a discovery important to anyone who wants to stay healthy: If we deny and avoid our emotional pain, we run the risk of becoming physically ill.

The basis of this discovery is that what we think and feel has a direct impact on what goes on in our body. The mind and the body are not separate — they are an interdependent unit.

This fact has been known to the medical psychology community for some time. Fortunately, knowledge of the link between our psychology and our health is becoming more widely available.

Medical psychology research has shown that people who cannot or will not allow themselves to experience and express their emotional pain tend to be at increased risk for serious illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer.

One reason we have trouble feeling our pain and expressing it to others is that we feel a loss of self-esteem in doing so. This is because many of us have bought into false notions about what it means to be a healthy or strong person. They myth of the hero is a predominant one in our society. Its basic premise is that negative feelings and pain are a sign of weakness. And that keeping a "stiff upper lip" and "toughing it out" are signs of maturity, character and strength.

This notion is nonsense. Nature seems to be arguing that nothing could be further from the truth. The myth of the hero is a fiction that can be very dangerous if taken literally. Optimal levels of health and real strength and character demand that we simply accept what's going on in our own psychology. It takes a lot of moral courage, as well as friendship and generosity toward ourselves, to be with the truth of what we are feeling.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Special Features
AP Video
Special Features